[Stats] Clarity vs Ambiguity


#1

A good example for this case is Tin Star where the stats can be reviewed in form of number or text.
On that game, there’s this Health which is presented by several stages: Healthy and vigorous > Healthy enough > Wounded > Badly wounded > On death’s verge. However, I also believe that this health system is actually processed numerically (100% > 0%) somehow.
(Another example is Choice of Dragon, for those who are broke enough to own Tin Star)

So… which one do you prefer?
Numerical stats with its clarity, or Textual stats with its ambiguity?


For some reason, playing with textual stats is more engaging for me. Those flavor texts.
But for the same reason, it can be quite confusing because I can’t be sure how smart/strong/rich I am compared to that NPC, with all these text based stats.

Is there a case where a stat is better presented using number instead of flavor text?


#2

Wealth and possessions; at least until you’ve accumulated so much you couldn’t possibly spend it all in a single day even if you wanted to.

Beyond explicitly countable “stuff”, I’d argue that not only are flavor-text stats more engaging and immersive, they can also be substantially more clear and less ambiguous than pure numerical stats.

Think about it: Is “Strength: 40%” outrageously high for an MC in a given situation, or pathetically low? Is it enough to move a box that’s clearly heavy enough only stronger-than-average humans can move it? What about unbalancing that boulder blocking the mountain pathway? Knowing that you have a certain number doesn’t actually mean much unless you know what you’re being tested against. I can’t actually think of any CS games that say things like #Try to roll the boulder. [Req. 45 STR]. Sure, by the end of the game you can assume 50% Strength is about average, but it’s nowhere near average at the beginning or even middle of most games. Most games, that’s about the maximum you can get in the middle, and far more than anyone can get at the beginning.

But if you’ve got a flavor-text display for your stat, and you set the steps of that flavor-text display to match up with difficulties of the stat checks you’ll be asking players to perform, they’ll be able to estimate their abilities with great accuracy. Imagine a part of the game where “easy” stat checks are around 20, “moderate” around 30, and “hard” around 40. You can use your flavor text to tell players with 20 “Your [strength/speed/whatever] isn’t very impressive,” while giving players with 40 in the stat something like “Your [strength/speed/whatever] is far superior to most in your circumstances.”

Then in later chapters, as stat checks become more demanding, you can use different thresholds to determine whether players see their stats as “…not particularly impressive at this point,” “…above average for those who have been through what you have,” or whatever, you get the idea so that players can reasonably and reliably gauge their progress against the current difficulty. It may even help avoid situations where a player uses all their stat increases on a single stat out of some fear they’ll fail a check if they spread their stats out evenly.

That leads me to suggest numeric stats have two more useful situations: First, when there’s a large difference between the start and end of a game regarding what’s considered “high” and “low” for a stat. Creating new flavor-texts for your stats every time you change the threshold of “good enough” will get tedious pretty quickly. Second, when an author feels like writing the flavor-text is exactly the wrong kind of work for them to enjoy.


#3

This is a difficult decision. Both have there own pro’s and con’s.

For example. I like the clarity of having specific numbers. It’s nice being able to know what every decision I make fully impacts what and to which digree. (Looking at “The lost Heir” series) I find it nice having that perfect numbered system. (Specially when the vastness of that series. You needed it)

But then you have the flavored version. These make me feel more realistic in a way. I can’t look at myself and say “my vocabulary just went up 5 points” but with the flavored text stats you could easily say “my vocabulary is extensive” and it feels more realistic in that aspect. But this wouldn’t work for a project requiring very fine amount of skill balancing to have a certain play through.

So I think really it depends on what you are going for. If it’s a more linear story, where the stats are less involved in the story then I’d go for the flavored. While if you were developing something with wide amounts of stats, and different choices that require those stats a specific amount I would use the numbered system.

You never know. Maybe you can find a nice healthy balance in between the two.


#4

Well, you both have a pretty good point.
Especially this one,[quote=“Minnow, post:2, topic:27409”]
Wealth and possessions; at least until you’ve accumulated so much you couldn’t possibly spend it all in a single day even if you wanted to.
[/quote]
and this


Regarding @Minnow’s thought, it strikes my mind that maybe I can use both numerical and textual mode for a same stat. Think of it like… gold coins: You have 2 gold coins. You have 100 gold coins. You’re so rich that you won’t bother to count your coins.

I don’t know. Probably it’s worse than being pure number or text, especially when your gold is going forth and back around the number/text conditional-check threshold.


And about @JustAReader, I don’t really agree that text based stats won’t work for a work which requires fine-tuning of skill balance. In fact, the text based stats promote skill checks with high accuracy checks, IMO.

“You’re so weak that you can’t even lift a pebble higher than your head.”
“You trained and gain decent physical strength. Now you can lift the pebble.”
“You’re so strong that you might compete in local weightlifting tournament.”
“You’re too strong. Too OP. Plz nerf.”


#5

This line reminds me of the design of progression system, somehow. Try take a peek.


But… I think the video has nothing to do with the current topic, though. Move on, ppl.

It makes me thinking, tho, how high a stat is high enough?
Using numeric stat, you can tell that 40% STR is pretty darn good (depends on the game design) and 80% is practically OP. However, with text stats, how can anyone know if “you’re very strong” is not the highest stat they can get? That there’s still more you can get?

Although, I don’t think that every people want their playthrough to go maximizing certain stat anyway.


#6

Bringing up The Lost Heir series though, most of the complaints about it are that the stat checks are unexpectedly high, and there are a number of those complaints. This means that despite having pretty shiny stat bars tracking your stat gains, you still have relatively little idea what such-and-such percentage really means. It’s easy to think, “Ok, I got that stat up to 50% so I’m good,” only to find out you need 60% or higher to accomplish anything.

So I’d put myself in the camp of well-done text-based stats. It takes some work to code them really well, but in the end they’re more immersive, should be more informative, and I think it’s kind of a good thing if people aren’t checking their stats every 2 seconds to see if something went up by 1%.

I mean come on, who wants 0-100 when you can have descriptions like:
You are a pathetic weakling.
You are capable of a smattering of unimpressive tasks.
You can manage a few things moderately well.
You are reasonably adept so long as not facing any great challenge.
You can handle yourself well against a good number of things.
You are proficient against most things that might come your way.
You can best most anything out there without blinking an eye.
You are practically godlike in your awesomeness.
YOU ARE A GOD.


#7

That’s an interesting way to think, and in most cases that would work well. Plus it’s humourous so extra points.

But imagine you have a stat check decision. And you failed it. As a reader I would want to fix that stat. But because the flavored is less specific and more of an overall feel to what your stat is. It would be hard to make small changes to that stat to just make it pass the check. See where I’m coming from?

Then again you’d be right in most cases. I’m kinda biased because I like the kind of game I described. Lots of stat checks and building specific skills. But because most games aren’t that defined the flavored version would work beautifully.


#8

Maybe I’m the odd person out, because I do enjoy having that much specifics in my story. But you do make a good point.

I can see how having to check your stats constantly, and failing them later could be a big drag, but to me that’s the challenge I love.

I enjoyed being able to build my character any way I wanted in TLH series. So those tiny little points added up to make my end character very unique.

Then again I do like the flavored version in some ways. I like the tone the author can put into it. Or making it feel like the Player Character is the one reading the stat to themselves. Example: “Wow, I really am getting stronger”

Both have their likes and dislikes


#9

Maybe it’s strange, but I’d kinda like to have both (but I’ve heard what happens to greedy children who want cake or something.)

Perhaps something like
Strength: 30%
*if (in 1st scene)
Compared to your peers you are very strong, and most likely don’t have to worry about a physical confrontation with [name of enemy group/ person] any time soon. You’re slightly weaker than the average adult [wo/man], and can probably lift a fully sized dog.

And then maybe at 50% something like “You’re slightly above average in strength, and can roughly lift an adult pig, if you were hard pressed to do so.”

But it’d display both? Or perhaps and options to show either one?


#10

I’ve thought about having both also, and my only qualm is that I’m not sure how it would look presentationally. I feel like it might need some extra spacing that would make long lists of stats just too unwieldy, but for a shorter list it could maybe work.

Having a choice would be interesting, similar to how TLH gave a choice to show stat changes or not. Just set up a variable in the startup file and some if statements in the stats file. I wonder if people are divided enough on the issue to make it worthwhile.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the appeal of stat bars and micromanaging, I’m just not sure that it’s something ChoiceScript does particularly well, and I find in a lot of games that I still can’t really be sure what such-and-such percent actually means considering every author will handle them differently.

True, but then it seems like you’re looking from the viewpoint of playing a game multiple times rather than just that first-time experience. You don’t know until you’ve failed the stat check that your score wasn’t good enough and you can only change it by playing again. If we assume many players only play a game once, I still feel like textual hints can make things clearer for an average reader.

But then you’re all correct in saying it depends on the kind of game and the author as well. Games like Lucid’s games that are very stat heavy and expect replays probably do need those stat bars (but could maybe use some more textual hints in the story for first time players as well). On the other hand, Havenstone’s XoR uses a simpler system where textual information works very well (for both stats and reputation).


#11

It’s actually isn’t that hard. Just put *if showstat on every “You gain Intelligence!” and there you go!

P.S. I think I have to save another Rp. Rp. to get TLH series. These appraisals successfully influenced my mind.


#12

I enjoyed the relationship text on the stats screen in The Sea Eternal. That didn’t always correspond exactly to the actual relationship variables (which I don’t think were percentage based, anyway…) but were set as their own variable, and various points in the main game would set what text should display on the stats screen. This flavor text was also written in such a way that it was based on what sort of information the main character would actually be able to perceive about the relationship… I think things like “so-and-so seems to trust you” “so-and-so seems upset with you,” and suchlike. That did seem pretty immersive to me, since it involved getting more into my character’s head, rather than seeing a number which my character himself never would’ve.

I can see it’s a lot of work to get into, but it’s definitely worth consideration :smile:


#13

If you code it in the right order you can always show precisely the text you want, e.g.

*if (var > 80)
  Descriptive text
  *goto next1
*elseif (var > 50)
  Descriptive text
  *goto next1
*elseif (var > 30)
  Descriptive text
  *goto next1
*else
  Descriptive text
  *goto next1

*label next1

Remember that CS reads a file line-by-line, so at the first true condition it finds (with *else being the ‘catch-all’ if none of the above conditions are true) it will return the appropriate descriptive text and *goto next1 will skip the rest. Put those values in the reverse order, however, and it won’t work as intended.


#14

Yeah, I’m (hoping it works) going to use something like that in my game, with both the numerical stat but also a text ‘reference’ (e.g. You are as skilled as an ordinary magicians apprentice.)

And also other fun stuff! Thanks


#15

You cut right down to what I like most in the story. Replayability. It’s my favorite part. Oh sure don’t get me wrong it’s really nice seeing a new one come out, playing it then never touching it again. It’s nice. And I like supporting the creators.

But I love being able to go back the same “interactive novel” and finding new things about it because I took different choices. TLH did that beautifully. So did Tin Star and Zombie Exodus. I’ve replayed all of them several times.